Updated: September 6, 2021 7:16:36 am
EVEN AS central leaders of the BJP maintained that Jat leader Rakesh Tikait’s call at the Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat to vote against the party would not do much damage to its prospects in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh election, party MP Varun Gandhi on Sunday called for “re-engagement” with the protesting farmers.
“Lakhs of farmers have gathered in protest today, in Muzaffarnagar. They are our own flesh and blood. We need to start re-engaging with them in a respectful manner: understand their pain, their point of view and work with them in reaching common ground,” the Pilibhit MP tweeted as farmer leaders spearheading the protests against the contentious farm laws held a massive rally in Muzaffarnagar.
Although the BJP did not react to Gandhi’s call officially, party leaders argued that neither the mobilisation of the Jats nor Tikait’s call to vote against the BJP could damage the party’s prospects while some admitting that “it is a matter of concern, but our efforts on regaining the ground is continuing”.
Party leaders said the central government’s moves to clear sugarcane dues and the MSPs paid by the state government could offset any potential damage.
At least three senior BJP leaders – from Uttar Pradesh – pointed out that the protests against the farm laws are confined to Western Uttar Pradesh where it is limited to the Jat community. “Since it is seen as a Jat agitation, there could be a consolidation of non-Jat communities against it. These farmers are considered to be affluent and the small farmers in the state have so far shown no signs that they support this agitation,” said a BJP MP.
“Tikait and others in the farm agitation have been losing their supporters and now with the kind of statements the leaders made at the Mahapanchayat their moral authority would erode as well,” said the MP.
Another leader said: “The massive gathering and the calls for voting against the BJP may affect to some extent, but not to the level that the opposition parties hope. An ordinary farmer in the state does not understand what this is for. They are getting the MSP and the farm laws have not hurt them so far.” Sources in the UP government said there could be more sops and “initiatives that would help the farmers” in the coming days, which could help douse the anger of the farmers, if any, ahead of the elections.
UP Cabinet minister Sidharth Nath Singh said the state government has cleared almost all dues for the farmers. “Yogi Adityanath government has cleared all past dues and what is remaining now is the export dues, which also will be paid by October. We have honoured all our commitments as far as purchases of produces at good MSP is concerned. We have given the price much more than the previous SP and BSP governments have done,” he told The Indian Express.
Tikait’s call could, however, damage Rashtriya Lok Dal – a prominent force in Western UP that is backed by the Jat community – and its leader Jayant Chaudhary, said the BJP sources. “The party feels that Tikait making political statements, which is likely to be more frequent towards the elections, is going to disturb Jayant Chaudhary rather than the BJP leaders. If Tikait becomes a political leader, he is going to eat into his votes,” said a party leader.
“If you are going by the regional equations, it is going to be a challenge for the RLD,” he said.
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